As the craft beer scene expands, and Charlotteans learn more and care more about the beer they drink (as some are doing), the area gets an accompanying jump in places serving more than the usual brews. Here’s a look at three of the more recent.
Bradshaw Social House
This looks the part of a very social house indeed: a little dark, quite loud, with a great outdoor space and a menu with rather a lot of everything, including more than a dozen beers on draft (a welcome five from Charlotte on our visit), craft brews for $4, $4.50, $5 and $7, plus pub cans, PBR and more.
Our server was bright and quick, the beer selection clear and well-served.
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Food? Meh. Wings were wan and nearly tasteless (we tried the suggested tequila lime, which would certainly be mild anyway, but these were less than mild), hummus dull (but with a gracious plenty of carrot sticks, celery and ciabatta toasts) and a prime rib sandwich’s dip wasn’t enough to enliven the dry meat and bun. A half-rack of ribs proved best, though its fries were soggy.
Several other things sound appealing: a Kentucky hot brown (shaved ham and turkey on sourdough toast with cream sauce), entree salads and half a dozen burger variations. But this feels like a place more for – well, socializing, than eating.
8440 Rea Road; $8-$15; 704-543-7351; facebook.com/BradshawSocial.
Tap’s Pourhouse & Eatery
It looks enormous and has by far the biggest and best-done beer menu, from its whopping 11 Charlotte brews (of about 60 on tap) to its categorization of beers, listing of ounces and alcohol-by-volume percentage, and a food lineup that offers pairing suggestions – a terrific idea for people interested in learning, as well as drinking.
The menu’s well-written, too. Unfortunately, it reads better than it eats. Here, the problem isn’t a low bar – it’s a lineup too ambitious for those executing it, on our visit. Chicken and waffles, for example, could have been amazing, with a Ramble On Red gravy (made with NoDa Brewing Co.’s American Amber ale), but the waffle emerged from the kitchen soft in some spots, tough in others, while its fried chicken was simply tough all the way around. (The greens underneath were marvelous, though.) A chicken sandwich boasted a big breast, but its bottom bun was soaked through when it arrived, and fries, though fine, didn’t make up for it.
Wings here are smoked (good) but tiny (bad), and very lightly brushed with Korean barbecue flavoring (good taste; wish there’d been more). Best of all, to me, was a bizarre little item called Southern Style Stix: cheese grits cut into rectangular prisms about the size of a Mentos roll, breaded and deep-fried and stacked like cordwood. (These are off the menu now.)
The menu lists plenty more of both the creative (smoked salmon dip, goat cheese flatbread and tomato jam, salads with hanger steak as an option) and the more mundane (loaded fries, an abundance of burgers, crab cakes). It’s also got 30-plus TVs and an assortment of seating. Maybe it’s all just a little too much to pull off.
279 E. Williamson Road, Mooresville; $8-$25; 704-660-3300; tapspourhouse.com.
Sankey’s Taproom and Grille
This hits a comfortable small spot in the middle of this brewpub range: Some interesting choices in a short menu, nice attention to local beers and a warm, neighborly vibe. Five Charlotte beers are on tap, and all the draft options are reasonably local (Cottonwood, Big Boss, Natty Greene’s).
Half a dozen Thai chili wings were seriously hot and delicious, and a club sandwich was nothing fancy, just simple, well-done, big and predictable. Fries were fine, and onion rings good, as onion rings tend to be, for the first three minutes.
A chicken cheesesteak deserved a better, fresher roll, but was generally fine, and sizeable for $10. There are sliders, and nachos and Texas caviar (corn and beans), and servers are welcoming and keep a close eye on you.
Best of all is the art of local breweries, done by local artists and commissioned for the spots by the breweries themselves (as GM Andy Tritten insisted): Clever, and a great addition.
Sankey’s is an extension of next-door Custom Home Pubs, which builds, sells and fixes draft systems for businesses and homes, and has a little taproom with monthly beer tastings and beer sales.
11416 E. Independence Blvd., Matthews; $7-$10; 704-847-0464; www.sankeysgrille.com.